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Domestic Abuse

Volume 592: debated on Tuesday 10 February 2015

2. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of introducing an offence of coercive control on prosecutions for domestic abuse. (907528)

I have been taking this welcome new measure through Committee with the support of Members from all parties. The new law of coercive control will help protect victims by criminalising sustained patterns of behaviour that stop short of serious physical violence but amount to extreme psychological and emotional abuse. It is likely to increase the number of cases of domestic abuse reported, which should result in an increase in the number of prosecutions.

I am grateful for that response. As the number of domestic abuse referrals has increased, which must be welcomed as people now have the confidence to refer such crimes of abuse, does the Solicitor-General agree that it is apparent that just as physical abuse should be consigned to the history books so should mental control, which is a form of torture that is equally unacceptable in this country today?

I welcome my hon. Friend’s remarks. Only today on the radio, we heard about people using mobile apps to control the movements and behaviour of their partners. Modern technology can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be very dangerous in the wrong hands. I believe that the new law will embrace that, too.

Female genital mutilation is a form of domestic abuse. Is the Solicitor-General as concerned as I am that there has been no successful prosecution for FGM in this country, following the acquittal last week of two of those prosecuted?

The right hon. Gentleman and I share a passion for ending this scourge. It was important that the prosecution was brought and the number of referrals continues to increase—we did not have any referrals before 2010. That shows that both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service are taking the matter very seriously. The message must be sent out to everybody that those who indulge in this form of abuse will be subject to the law and to prosecution.

May I welcome the Solicitor-General’s recognition of the importance of dealing with the psychological intimidation of witnesses, which, as those of us who have prosecuted a case of this kind will know, can be every bit as difficult as physical intimidation? I congratulate him personally on the initiatives he has taken in this matter and the work he has been doing.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those remarks. It was important that we fill the loopholes in the law. We now have the stalking and harassment legislation introduced by this Government and legislation on coercive control. We are doing everything we can to deal with the scourge of emotional and psychological abuse.

May I commend the Solicitor-General on his co-operative and informed attitude to the issue of coercive control and on the way in which he took the matter through Committee? I also thank him for sponsoring my ten-minute rule Bill on the subject last year; it would be remiss of me not to say that. On a more serious note, will he assure the House that prior to the commencement of the new law, welcome as we all say it will be, there will be sufficient time to train the police and prosecuting authorities and the necessary guidelines will be produced?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question and I entirely agree that we must ensure that full training of the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and all the authorities that will be responsible for dealing with the new legislation is put in place before we bring it into force.